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Invasion! - Riverside (IC)


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That day started like so many others in Freedom City. The sun was shining, a few light and fluffy clouds in the sky. People went about their business as usual. The day started like any other; but it certainly didn’t stay that way…

The first warning was quiet, subtle even if there wasn’t a lot of lead up time. Seers and psychics, ESPers and precogs felt like someone shoved a hot needle in their brain as the horror of what was coming crashed over them like a tidal wave. They saw the destruction of everything, the death of all life coming. And not just coming eventually; it was standing on their doorstep and knocking. The coming event and the things they saw crushed them and kept them from doing anything but try and pull themselves together.


At the base of Centurion’s statue, a young man appeared. He seemed to have arrived in mid-stride. His skins was dark reddish-brown, his eyes were black. Beyond that, he could have been human. He looked around the park, taking everyone in with his contemptuous gaze. He turned and looked up at the symbol for righteousness and all that was good in the city and sneered. He threw his hands forward and massive lances of black flame struck the statue. For an instant the statue held, before breaking off at the knees and falling backward. The tremor from the impacts was felt for hundreds of yards.

Quickly, the broken legs of the statue became darker, an ugly color of stone as they changed. An arc formed, connecting the two towering stone legs. The space between flickered changed and, with a tear that screamed into the horrified citizens, a rent in the fabric of the world opened and filled the space with a gateway. On the other side, waiting, stood rank after rank after rank of nightmares of various shapes and sizes. With a roar and scream, the demonic horde charge through the opening as their summoner leaned against a pillar and smiled coldly.


Across the city, the sky darkened. This was no eclipse, there were no clouds. It was as if the sun died and went out. While it was dark, a harsh reddish glow filled the city with enough light to see. The gloom of a hellish eternal night settled over the city.

The city itself began to change. Slowly at first, starting in the city center and quickly moving outward. Grass and plants withered and died; just dead husks as the life was drained from them. Roads became pitted and cracked as if they had not been used in ages. There were splits in the earth where magma burst forth, creating new rivers of destructions. Fire burned everywhere; some just springing into being. Even the buildings and landscape were altered. Things twisted and changed; sometimes no longer even recognizable. Everything took on a dark and malicious appearance. Horrific creatures, demons of all shapes and sizes quickly appeared. Some came from the hellish glow in the city center while others came from the numerous small portals that opened everywhere.

A wave of fear, terror, hatred, sadness and hopelessness seemed to engulf the city. People shook in fear, cowered or ran. They knew in their souls the end had come and they were powerless to stop it. Nowhere was safe now. No place was untouched. The world of heroes was over. Suffering and death was all that remained. Freedom City was gone. Hell had come to Earth and it wasn’t going anywhere…

Amidst the darkness, amidst the terrified people, there were those that stood strong. Those who shook off the darkness and rose above it despite how it ate at the center of their being. They could still feel this new city/world trying to tear them down, but they were strong enough to fight through it. The world may have gone to hell, but not everyone was willing to give up and quit. Some were not going to go down without a fight…

Over in the North End, visible for miles around, a pillar of golden-white light rose to pierce the darkness. It shone like a beacon in the tainted city; a sign that not everywhere was changed; not everywhere was Fallen. It called to the hearts and souls of the terrified people. Hope wasn’t completely gone yet.


When the gate(s) opened, there was one person who had been expecting it. Whose job was to prevent all of this from coming to pass. Whose life had been badly hammered of late. The various difficulties had all been meant to keep her off balance, to miss the signs and to fail. While it worked to some extent, Phantom hadn’t rolled over and surrendered. She was still doing her duty and she knew where the central hub of the whole invasion was as soon as it happened.

But the demons knew that keystone was vital as well. And they had left significant and powerful numbers behind to guard and reinforce it. An army would be obliterated before it got close. Fighting for every inch just to get there would be futile at best. And there were just too many to sneak past currently. And with the amount of fire that close to the main gate, it was foolhardy for Phantom and Avenger to go there. They needed a plan and, no matter how they looked at it, this wasn’t going to be easy.

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Phantom didn't look up. She didn't need to. The shock, although anticipated, of the demon hordes was enough to set every mystical sense she had jangling. Instead of looking out the window, she turned her face to Avenger. "It's time. Call the team."

She paused, finally turning her face to the sky. The moment she appeared on the battlefield, they were going to be up past their necks in demons. She had to stop this. Had to, and every demon would know that. Even if they couldn't get to the gate to close it down, they might be able to buy the children time to accomplish it. It was a desperate gambit for a desperate day. "Make sure they know what they're signing up for."

Phantom lifted her phone to her ear to place a call of her own.

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Jack stared down at the city gone mad, the vision of Hell itself like every waking daymare he'd had since he'd been brought over. "I always knew I'd wind up here," he said aloud, "but I never thought it would come to me." He picked up the phone, calling Atlas and Dead Head, letting them know to rendezvous with him on Ditko Street near Riverside. "Let them think we're trying to reach Eldritch. We'll keep the weight off him, letting the Master Mage do what he can, and pull down enough weight on us that the kids can get through."

When he was done with his calls, he did one last thing. Jack pulled off his hockey mask and tossed it aside. The time for wearing silly masks was over. It was time for war. "Let's go."

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She closed the phone with final click and it vanished into the void between her fingertips. Later, she would count the cost of sending children to war. Later, she'd face herself in the mirror. Now, they were simply running out of time. She turned to him and simply nodded as she raised one hand to ghost her fingertips over his cheekbone. She didn't mention her feelings, but the emotion was as obvious as it was silent. Anything aloud would have sounded too much like a good-bye and Phantom had no plans to die today.

With a single pop, they slipped through the void and onto the street corner and Phantom flipped her hood over her face.

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Dead Head was clutching his head in skull-splitting agony. The dead had been screaming at him for hours, which was a familiar enough experience. But now the echoes of those who had not yet died -- but would soon -- were clawing inside his skull.

He knew a few who might be able to help him, but had no way to contact them. He owned nothing but the clothes on his back, and the shovel strapped to it; even if he had a cell phone he'd have no way to charge it. But he had set up some meet-up points with Avenger last month, after their tussle with some necromancers, and headed there. Oddly -- yet, somehow, not unexpectedly -- the few people Dead Head saw as he stumbled down in the streets bolted from him as soon as he got near, even if he stuck to the shadows and made sure they didn't see him. It was as if they could sense his aura of undeath, an aura that was swelling....

Luckily, Dead Head did not have to wait long at the meet-up spot for Avenger to show.

"Wha... what's going on, man? The dead... the dead are screaming!"

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"Hell has come to Freedom City," said Avenger laconically. He flexed his fingers, exposing his bare face to Dead Head for the first time. "Listen. I haven't been entirely open about where I come from," he explained for the benefit of Dead Head. "Whatever you see today, just trust that I'm on the side of the angels." He could hear the screaming of the crowd in his ears, in the depths of what passed for his soul. "We're the big guns today, Dead Head. While Midnight Freedom pulls the demons off the door, another team is going in to close the gate." He flexed his fingers again, his entire body inhumanely poised as he watched the demons approaching. "That means that whatever happens, we stand up and we keep that door open."

"Phantom, you said the demons feed on violence and negative emotions, right? So if we want to get their attention, we need to give them what they hunger for. We need to give them pain."

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"Go ahead and ring the doorbell, why don't you?" Phantom agreed, her smile a dangerous curve of white below the shadow of her hood. This was the sort of moment she had trained for and weariness fell away in the face of the oncoming threat, leaving only the hyperfocus of the fight and the surge of adrenaline.

She floated up to the top of a hastily parked car and braced her feet. Phantom's expression darkened at the threat, her shoulders squared under her cloak. She brought up hands that crackled with eldritch witch light. "I am so very tired of demons."

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"Right, well," Dead Head says, holding his head and obviously in a fair amount of pain, "we waitin' on anyone else? The big Russian... Atlas?"

Dead Head had never heard the dead cry out like this, not this many. Was this the reason he came to Freedom? Was this what had been calling him for so many weeks? He didn't know... but he did know he'd do everything he could to make sure no one died before their time.

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"Atlas is coming," said Avenger with surety. "Or he's busy where he is. We have to do our job. Remember. We fall down, the city falls down. So we stand up." He flexed his hands again, the screams of the city in his ears, and his voice rose to a shout . "DEMONS!" When he had their attention, he spoke, his voice ringing among the frightened people around them. "And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood!" And with that, and a malevolent roar, Jack's eyes turned a malignant shade of red, his teeth lengthened into massive fangs, his hands pulling out into wicked claws. "This is MY CITY!" And with that, he sprang at the nearest demon and tore its throat out.

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A deafening roar of thunder shook the ground as the face of a building violently exploded outward from the force of a tractor trailer being thrown through it, several demons scattered in the rubble. Atlas stood, framed in the wreckage of the building, visibly shaking with rage. He always took caution to hold himself back; to not become the monster people believed him to be. But this was the End of All Days. A monster was exactly what they needed.

Atlas strode out from the building, bellowing his challenge, every syllable was a crescendo of violence.

"Ask of me, and I shall give zee ze heazen for zine inheritance, and ze uttermost parts of the earth for zy possession.

Zou shalt break zem with a rod of iron; zou shalt dash zem in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Be wise now zerefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of ze earth.

Serve ze LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss ze Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all zey zat put zeir trust in him.


Atlas was prepared to lay down his life this day, but he would make them pay dearly.

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The demons were moving forward, grabbing and herding people where they could. The people for their part were pretty much running in terror. And in this section of the city, more of the populace had a better idea of what was going on. They were the first ones moving and doing their best to find safety. It was unlikely that any would get far though.

Until 4 heroes decided to stand in the center of the street and told the demon in no uncertain terms that they were no welcome. The various demons turned and lunged forward, charging to take down those who dared challenge. Most launched themselves at Phantom, trying to connect with a long time nemesis, to little or no effect. The rest tore, clawed and chomped at the others. These were some impressively tough heroes however, and they could shrug off such attacks like they didn't matter. They would not fall.

In the distance, a cacophony of demonic voices could be heard. Thousands upon thousands roaring in anger and desire. And far down the street, the first line of the almost limitless number of demons in the horde from hell could be seen running forward. It seemed the heroes' distraction was working quite well...

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The worst part, in retrospect, was how very easy it was to start the killing. With one demon's dead body at his feet, Jack laughed, blood staining his lips as he faced the oncoming horde. Their blows, their claws, were nothing, tearing at his clothes and dead flesh without doing any serious damage. If they turned to using their infernal weapons against him, he'd be in trouble...so he'd have to kill them all first. Kill the leader. Kill the greatest of them. Teach them FEAR. "I'm going to enjoy eating your hearts tonight."

Jack leaped for the largest demon within his reach, clawing his way up its body to rip at its throat, the great fiend falling as if pole-axed as Jack tore open a great font of ichor, the momentum propelling him forward to fall between a great dragon-shaped beast and a lone devil with a black iron pitchfork. Hissing, Jack grabbed the fork and smashed it into the face of the dragon beast, leaping aside as a jet of unholy flame incinerated the luckless trident-bearer he'd disarmed. Coming back down, he kicked the trident hard, driving it into the face and skull of the dragon, sending it crashing to the earth.

He fell amongst a pack of succubi then, ripping and tearing even as they did, leaving four down and broken as if ripped apart by wild animals, finally falling on one luckless imp, picking him up, and biting him in half where the crowd of oncoming demons could see. "Who's next?" he hissed malevolently, feeling a distant tug at the edge of his consciousness. It wasn't right to kill like this, was it? But these were demons...

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Atlas was a different kind of combatant from the other Midknights. They tended to be precise, surgical, though still quite violent in their attacks. Each attack was a personal signature of brutality, an individualized work of destruction. Atlas on the other hand, hit things. Usually hard. His fighting style was a glorious lack of finesse.

If you gave him a sword, he would wield it like a club. If you gave him an axe, he would wield it like a club. If you gave him a club, he would demand a bigger club. That sort of fighting style had no place in the modern world. Not when there were things to protect, save and undue violence was wrong.

But - if your battle directions were "kill everything in that direction", suddenly that glorious lack of finesse became one heck of a strategy. Seeing Atlas leap through the air, close-lining flying demons as he went, only to crash back to the earth before slamming his hands together to create a massive shockwave that sent demons reeling was just a sight to behold.

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"Batter up!"

CLANG! went his shovel against one demon, and the Revoltin' Revenant kept plowing through.

"'Hu's on first, Watt's on second, Ida No is on third...' 'That's what I want to know!'"


"'Are you the manager?' 'Yes.' 'You gonna coach, too?' 'Yes.' 'And you know your players names?' 'Well I should!' 'Then who's on first?' 'Yes.'"


"'I mean the fella's name.' 'Hu.' 'The guy on first.' 'Hu.' 'The first baseman!' 'Hu.' 'The gut playin-' 'Hu is on first!'"


"'I'm askin' you who is on first!' 'That's the man's name.' 'That's who's name?' 'Yes.' 'Well go ahead and tell me.' 'That's it.' 'That's who?' 'Yes.''"


"'Look, you got a first baseman?' 'Certainly.' 'Who's playing first?' 'That's right.' 'When you pay off the first baseman every month, who gets the money?' 'Every dollar of it.' 'All I'm trying to find out is the fellow's name on first base.' 'Hu!'"


Several demons down. Probably several hundred more to go. On this block.

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Phantom was the last to join the fray. She remained unmoveable as the demons leapt at and through her ghostly form in a frenzy of violence. Once the street was filled with demons and monsters piled bodies thick around the car, her hands snapped out to gesture.

Like the other midnight monsters here, Phantom had always been hampered by fighting in the shadows. Minimize the collateral damage, take out the target with surgical attention to detail. When all that was left was a battlefield filled with only monsters, however, it became a very different ballgame.

Black energy poured from her fingertips to cover one of the abandoned trucks on the side of the road. A quick slicing gesture sent the vehicle broadside at another front of demons. It tumbled end over end with a satisfying series of crunches and squeals.

Destroy the city to save a world? An easy choice to make considering.

"Please tell me you brought more than third circle wretches to try and take this world," Phantom asked one of the demons scrabbling uselessly at her, in cold almost conversational tones.

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These gathered heroes were not the shining example of light and purity. They were not held up high as shining examples of all that was good. They were not truly iconic figures to be loved by all that saw that. There were still heroes. But what they were was good at destroying their enemies.

The four heroes had gathered an an intersection. It might seem like a poor defensive position. And considering that they were outnumbered by several hundred to one (not counting the ranks of the Horde headed their way), finding a good spot to defend seemed logical. If they were defending. These heroes took the offensive, cutting through the regular demons like they were nothing. Demons flew everywhere. Ripped, torn, thrown, smashed, crushed. The MidKnighters moved through them with ease. The only demons that were safe were the ones they couldn't reach. But there were plenty more where they came from... The heroes clothes were torn and ragged within moments, minor cuts and bruises were inflicted but nothing significant. The heroes seemed unstoppable.

But the Horde was drawing closer.

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If it worked once, then it could work again. Atlas charged another group of demons and clapped his hands together again, creating another roar of thunder, if possible, louder than the last. "Run you tiny, itsy, bitsy demons! You vill all die before ze Atlas!" It was amazing really, that even in this sea of Red how easily Atlas stood out from them.

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Jack was past taunting, past teasing. He simply killed in great numbers, tearing his way through the demonic crowd with the cold, lethal fury of a born monster. He'd faded from view entirely now, rendering him dependent on the broken parking meter he'd picked up to act as a club. There was screaming, and death, and blood poured on the ground and it was so very, very good. He wanted to dip his head and lap it up, tasting the delicious super-charged essence of demon, but instead concentrated on sheer force and stealth. The demons on his corner died without even knowing what killed them, their bleeding, broken bodies forming a gradually growing wall all around him. He was leaving footprints.

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"'Look, all I wanna know is when you sign up the first baseman, how does he sign his name?' 'Hu.' 'The guy.' 'Hu.' 'How does he sign...' 'That's how he signs it.' 'Who?' 'Yes.'"


"'All I'm trying to find out is what's the guy's name on first base.' 'No. Watt is on second base.' 'I'm not asking you who's on second.' 'Hu's on first.' 'One base at a time!'"


"'Well, don't change the players around.' 'I'm not changing nobody!' 'Take it easy, buddy.' 'I'm only asking you, who's the guy on first base?' 'That's right.' 'Okay.' 'All right.'"


"'What's the guy's name on first base?' 'No. Watt is on second.' 'I'm not asking you who's on second.' 'Hu's on first.' 'I don't know.' 'He's on third, we're not talking about him.' 'Now how did I get on third base?'"


"'Why, you mentioned his name.' 'If I mentioned the third baseman's name, who did I say is playing third?' 'No. Hu's playing first.' 'What's on first?' 'Watt's on second.' 'I don't know.' 'He's on third.' 'There I go, back on third again!'"


"'Would you just stay on third base and don't go off it.' 'All right, what do you want to know?' 'Now who's playing third base?' 'Why do you insist on putting Hu on third base?' 'What am I putting on third?' 'No. Watt is on second.' 'You don't want who on second?' 'Hu is on first.' 'I don't know.' 'Third base!'"


Keep it up, Dead Head. Keep those demons off-guard, and my teammates from know just how freaked out I am by all this!

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Phantom floated in place, her cloak billowing despite the minute rips and tears it was accumulating in the frothing demon frenzy that seemed to be getting ever worse around her. She knew, better than any of the men she fought alongside that even if they killed hundreds and hundreds, there were still thousands and thousands and thousands left to go. Her dimensional senses screamed as hell was juxtaposed over earth-prime. Every second the gate stood open, it would only grow worse and as long as it stood, this was a war that would be impossible to end.

With that in mind, Phantom flung her hands out infront of her and sent another nearby truck at the demons, crunching into them. It really wasn't quite big enough.

"Atlas!" She called out, her voice booming out impressively over the battlefield, "That building? Can you knock it over onto that flank?"

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It's funny the things you think about when the world's coming to an end. As he tore through the demonic horde, the super-powerful blood in his system charging him up like the devil's own PCP addict, Jack remembered his own death. The sweet agony of Claudia's fangs at his throat. The feeling of cold, permeating his flesh, permeating through every inch of him until it reached his soul. Then the taste of her lips on his, the deathly fire that had poured through him and rocketed him to consciousness again with a bloody, rageful hunger.

Is this what it's all been for? My own damnation, and everything else, to stop these demons? He thought of his parents, the people he'd loved who were dead and gone, picturing them waiting for him in a fluffy cloud Heaven. As he stood on the field of his death, it was a very comforting story.

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The four heroes handled the scattered demonic forces with ease. There were plenty of them, but not organized in anyway. Within a few short moments, they had cleared a large around them of demons. Considering the sheer number they had killed, it was odd that things were so empty. But when the demons died, their bodies simply vanished. Otherwise the heroes would be fighting on a giant mound of corpses.

Besides the odd demon here and there that had escaped their wrath, the street was clear for the moment though it wouldn't be for long. Before them, marching down the streets towards them from every direction was a Horde. The Horde. Not scattered demons, not minor pawns sent first. But hardened warrior demons, led by demons of power, strength and intelligence. THOUSANDS of them. All with one purpose: destroy the 4 foolish defenders who had chosen to make a stand.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Atlas took Phantom's suggestion and tried to stem the tide of the horde. Even they couldn't stand against this overwhelming assault, but this was just a ploy for time. That being said, when stalling for time and not getting eviscerated by the endless hordes of the Abyss are one and the same, you tend to fight tooth and nail anyways.

Altas made his way through the relative clearing to the building that Phantom had indicated. Due to the fact that it was so close to the center of all this madness, everyone had either been evacuated, or overrun. Either way, there wasn't much you could do for them at this point. Still it was sad to do this. Though it was oddly poetic that tearing down features of civilization might be one of the things that helps guard it.

At the base of the building, Atlas plunged his hands deep into the concrete, into the foundation of the building. With a groan of effort, Atlas managed to pull the base of half the building about 6ft out of the ground, at which point gravity promptly took over and the building toppled the rest of the way down, hopefully buying the defenders a few precious minutes.

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Phantom coughed at the dust plume from the shattered building. It was always strange to her that though her lungs didn't need air, she retained the human auto reponse to clear them. She gestured, using mystical wind to clear the air and spoke to her companions as the Horde approached.

"These demons are going to have more tricks. Poison, fire, flight, mental tricks, you name it. The bigger they are, the tougher they are is a general rule. The exception are the ones who look utterly human. Those will hopefully be succubi or doppelgangers. They might be a true hell lord though. Backs to the wall. This is about to get a whole lot worse."

Phantom's voice was rock steady if hoarse as she floated down to the others and headed over to the best curve of rubble she could see at first glance. Solidifying, her booted feet hit the ground with a soft thump, the tattered folds of her cloak ghosting down around her.

Her gaze fixed on the masses, Phantom's throat worked as she tried to find something to say. What sort of words did anyone have when the goal of the fight was simply to last as long as possible against overwhelming numbers. They were going to be hurt and badly. They simply had to last long enough. Her gaze skimmed over their small band, resting finally on Avenger. She swallowed again and settled on, "I'd say whoever gets the most demons wins but I think Atlas is up by about a thousand so I'll settle on last man standing gets bragging rights."

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